Baking is a delicate balance of ingredients, timing, and technique. But it’s not always easy to tell when you’re making mistakes. Some mistakes are quite obvious – like if the cake falls flat or your icing sticks together because you forgot to add sugar.
Other times, things can go wrong without any visual cues at all – like if your gingerbread cookies crumble instead of stay crisp even after cooling for over an hour on a wire rack. So how do you know what constitutes beginner baking errors? Here are 10 mistakes that many beginner bakers make and how one can fix them.
- Not reading the recipe thoroughly: Understanding the recipe is key to successfully completing it. Skimming through the instructions can result in mistakes like omitting an ingredient or substituting one type of flour for another (resulting in a tough, chewy dough).
To avoid making errors due to this silly mistake, make sure you read the recipe twice, then gather all of your ingredients and equipment. Get a clear understanding of how long it will take to complete the recipe before you start. Make sure that you have enough time or make adjustments if necessary. Follow delicious dessert blogs like https://chopnotch.com/ to get ahead of other bakers.
- Greasing pans before lining them with parchment paper: The oil on your hands will ruin whatever masterpiece you’re making – from delicate ladyfingers to rich chocolate cake layers. Greasing should always be done after covering the pan with parchment paper so as not to compromise its structure when using it to remove the baked goods.
- Baking ingredients at exceptionally high temperatures: This will cause your cakes and cookies to rise higher than they should, resulting in mistakes like hollow muffins or crumbly cake layers. Remember that baking is science, which means you have to follow the recipe as it’s written! If the baker has asked to bake it at a higher temperature, then you should alter the recipe by decreasing baking powder or adding more liquid.
- Adding eggs before creaming butter and sugar: Same goes for adding any wet ingredient (like milk) before creaming together all of the dry ones – think flour, salt, cocoa powder). The order matters because when mixed with other liquids later on down the line, these dry ingredients can’t form into an airy batter that makes sponges light and fluffy. Too many people mistakenly believe this is just how recipes are done, but there is a systematic process for every good thing.
- Adjusting brownies’ texture by adding more sugar: Remember, brownies are supposed to be sweet and fudgy. The more sugar you add, the higher the chance that they will come out cakey instead of dense and chewy, which is what we want in a proper brownie. You can add a tablespoon or two of water to the batter at this point, but it will not work for key lime pie.
- Adding too much flour or sugar to the dough: Unless you are baking a bread dough, using too much flour will cause your baked goods to come out tough and chewy instead of light and fluffy. Too much sugar will cause a cake to brown too quickly, potentially leaving the outside dry and crusty while the inside is still raw. Likewise, adding too much dough to the pie pan will cause it to bubble up, making for a messy and uneven bake.
To correct mistakes with added flour, just add some water or milk until everything comes together again – but if you’ve already mixed everything fully (and have no way of undoing what you did), then cover tightly and freeze for at least one day before trying again!
- Over-mixing the dough: Over-mixing dough is one of the most common mistakes beginner bakers make. When you over-mix, your gluten will develop too much, and it can result in a dry, tough crust or fluffy sponge that falls apart badly when cut into pieces. Instead, mix just until the ingredients are fully combined, using a wooden spoon to mix through.
It’s also important not to over-mix liquids like milk or water into your dry ingredients before adding them – this will lead to tough baked goods with dense textures and unpleasant flavor notes.
- Adding too much baking powder or salt to your batter: the baked goods will rise at a rapid pace, and then collapse. This is because of what’s called “chemical leavening,” which relies on an acid (baking soda) or alkali (baking powder). When you add more than necessary, there’s no time for chemical reactions to take place before it has finished rising in the oven. The result? A sunken cake!
- Failing to butter or oil pans before adding batter: this will cause your cake to stick when you try to remove it from the pan. Most of the time, the cake will break in half, leaving a mess on the pan. If it doesn’t stick to the edges of the pan, you’ll have more batter than necessary for one layer – meaning that while baking, your cake will end up with an uneven surface. So, always make sure to use butter or oil to coat the pan before adding batter!
- Using the wrong pan size: this will alter your baking times, and also cause cakes to fall flat. For example, if you don’t use enough batter to fill a pan that is too wide, the cake will take longer to bake, and it might not rise as much. If you’re using a larger size of the pan than what’s called for in your recipe, then more time could be taken for the oven to heat up the interior of the cake – this can cause cakes to fall flat or even split open while baking.
If you’re using a smaller size of the pan than called for in the recipe, then your baking times are going to be drastically shortened. You might also notice that your cake won’t rise as much since there’s not enough room to do so within the confines of the dish or tray. To fix this, consider your requirements as in the weight of the cake and then use a round pan or use a larger size of the same type as called for.
At the starting stage, everyone makes mistakes – that’s why it takes time and experience to learn the ropes. We hope these mistakes will guide you on your way to the perfect cake, dessert, bread or cookie.